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Tailor Your Writing to Increase Placements

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Young public relations practitioners do it. So do many industry veterans. They create and distribute one general news release to a multitude of media and then hope for placement and coverage in newspapers, television, radio, and magazines.

Stop the presses! That kind of approach has not worked well in the past and most certainly will not work well today. Newspaper editors, beat writers, television producers, and TV reporters all have different goals, needs, and deadlines. Tailoring your writing to meet those demands will certainly help your effort to generate more coverage for your client.

Let's start with the newspaper. Editors and writers are most interested in trends and timely stories that impact their readership. They are usually juggling five or six stories at a time in hopes of getting something done by an early-evening deadline. So to grab their attention, your writing needs some impact and the data to back it up.

If you have a new product or service or spent a lot of money developing one, you are on the right track. Ask yourself what makes this product so important and how many people in the area, regionally or even nationally, will be impacted by it. Then you can take the space to back up your findings with a right mix of data. Print reporters need projections and evidence to solidify the story. They have the space to write about it. Ensure you have some numbers in your release or pitch letter.

You can also create a meatier release for print than you can for the electronic media. Although one page should suffice in most cases, you have the option of adding a page if the story is interesting enough.

Television news is much different than print. Any news producer or reporter will tell you that TV is a visual medium, so you need to think visually. That new product launch that might work for print had better have plenty of moving parts if you hope to land a spot on the 6:00 p.m. news. Tying it to an event with local celebrities, dignitaries, children, and/or pets is usually a good method to generate some type of coverage.

Just like the news product itself, releases for TV need to be short and concise. If your ideas can't be confined to one page, they are probably not a good fit for television. Many producers will tell you, "The shorter the news release, the better." If you can keep it to less than a page, you score more points. In fact, many reporters would recommend utilizing a "who-what-when-where" approach to the release with the main facts easy to find and read.

While TV stations have two to three key newscasts a night, news/talk radio stations have reports every hour. Just like writing for television, writing for radio needs to be short and sweet. While there is no visual element involved, the opportunity for a good sound bite with a key newsmaker or decision maker always enhances your chances for coverage.

Magazines are an entity unto themselves. Since most are monthly, and planned out far in advance, your writing needs to have some "legs." No need for news releases here. Instead, concentrate on a trendier approach that will still be interesting three months or even six months down the road. Editors like to focus on the "latest and greatest" industry trends and spotlight the people behind them. As you would when writing for a newspaper, back up your pitch with plenty of statistics and relevant data. Magazine writers usually have more time to focus on your idea. Provide plenty of good information to get them started.

Tailoring your release to each medium may take more time and effort, but the results will be well worth it.

About the Author:

Steve Turner is a principal with Solomon/Turner, a public relations firm specializing in high-tech and emerging companies located in St. Louis, MO. Steve can be reached at 314-205-0800 or
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